Defensive End Robert Quinn was one of the bright spots in the Dallas Cowboys' 2019 season. But if Quinn's big play means he finds a lucrative free agent deal with another team, could third-year player Dorance Armstrong help the Cowboys deal with losing last season's sack leader?
Armstrong was a fourth-round pick in 2018 and has been limited to only about 25% of the team's defensive snaps the last two years. He had two sacks last year despite limited duty, providing a glimmer of hope that he can get to the quarterback.
If Quinn does leave the Cowboys, Armstrong and DeMarcus Lawrence are the only defensive ends locked in for 2020 who have proven pass rush skills.
There is hope that Randy Gregory will be reinstated and can be Quinn's potential replacement. He's still under contract and would likely be the Week One starter if he returns. The league should grant Randy's request if it's made, but there's no guarantee of that at this point.
If neither Gregory or Quinn are available in 2020 then the Cowboys will likely look for a free agent option or draft a defensive end with a premium pick. But as we experienced recently with Taco Charlton, trusting a rookie to walk in and contribute is also dicey..
At the bare minimum, we could see Dallas employ a strategy of using Tyrone Crawford or Joe Jackson on run defense and then bringing in Armstrong when they expect the pass. But those kind of blatant personnel changes give the offense opportunities to adjust and counter.
This is one of many spots on the roster where the Cowboys face a difficult choice. Do you trust a mid-round draft pick with a few years of development with a major role, or do you spend money and/or draft picks this offseason on a safer option?
Dallas could just re-sign Robert Quinn, of course, but somebody is going to lose in this offseason's round of Musical Chairs. It feels like it may come down to Quinn or Byron Jones, and at least right now the team seems to be leaning more toward the defensive end than the cornerback.
If Quinn does return then Dorance Armstrong can remain a rotation piece. And if Randy Gregory gets reinstated on top of that, it may be a boring year for Armstrong.
The presence of players like Armstrong, Connor McGovern, Trysten Hill, and other young prospects from recent years matter as Dallas navigates this busy 2020 offseason. They drafted these players to contribute and at a certain point they have to give them opportunities to do so.
Can the Cowboys leap from a proven veteran like Robert Quinn to trusting Dorance Armstrong with greater responsibility? It's a tough sell, but Dallas may have to bite the bullet on some of these decisions with so many needs throughout the roster.